West to Condobolin
It's the town that gave rise to Shannon Noll (who, yes, was robbed of the 2003 Australian Idol title) and it's the town giving rise to my Regional Weekenders.
Regional Weekender: The Inaugural Edition
If you're at all fond of Nollsie, you may have guessed my first Regional Weekender destination. And if you're not all over your Nollsie trivia, allow me: I headed way out west to a little place called Condobolin.
At 450km west of Sydney, the country NSW town of Condobolin is not the usual mini-break destination for Sydneysiders. On a map, it's right about here:
Slow travel: making tracks
I had plenty of time to make plans for my trip out west. When you travel via train, you’ve got to have made peace with your trip being as much about the journey as the destination.
It was just before 7:30am when the train pulled out of Sydney central station. The CBD buildings glowed golden in the morning light in a way that makes the city look far prettier than it really ought to… and so began my journey west, as the XPT made its way out of the city, through the suburbs, up into the Blue Mountains, and across to the state’s central west.
From train to bus
Around lunch time the train pulled into Orange where I switched onto a NSW trainlink coach for a couple of hours. Thankfully there was no waiting time between the XPT and the coach because my goodness was it cold out in Orange.
From Orange the coach made its way further west to Parkes where I made my final change — onto a 20 seater bus for the final leg of my journey through to Condobolin.
I arrived in Condobolin late Friday afternoon. A journey book-ended by golden hours.
The town was drenched in warm golden light as I made my way along Bathurst St, getting my bearings (and spotting the buildings I had seen a decade and a half ago in Nollsie’s What About Me video clip).
While strolling through town I stopped to take a peek in the window of The Lachlander. An independent local newspaper, the first issue of The Lachlander was printed way back in July 1895. It was fully computerised in 2004.
The Lachlander ceased operation earlier this year.
Farming plays a key role in Condobolin, and in recent years local farmers have done it tough as they’ve been forced to cope with extended periods of drought.
The NSW Government’s Drought Indicator classifies Condobolin as currently experiencing a period of 'intense drought’, meaning “ground cover is very low, soil moisture stores are exhausted and rainfall has been minimal over the past 6-12 months”.
Conditions were so tough last year that a convoy of trucks made their way from Western Australia across the Nullarbor to Condobolin, delivering much needed relief in the form of 2300 bales of hay.
What to do in Condobolin
Located on the bank of the Lachlan River, Condobolin is home to 3486 people, that’s according to the last Australian Census. And while it may be a small town, but there’s plenty to see and do… I managed to walk 18km in a day making my way around the various parts of town I wanted to see.
After coffee and the papers, I started out my day with a visit to the museum — located in the Lachlan Shire Hall building on Bathurst St. Admission is $2. It is full of local history exhibits including maps, photographs, information about locals involved in the wars, and more. While I was there I bought a few booklets about the town, one of the history of The Lachlander, another about the meanings of local street names, and one about local buildings and historic sites.
When I finished browsing the museum, I made my way across the Lachlan River and out of town to check out Utes in the Paddock… which is pretty much what it sounds like. But these aren’t any old utes. This is some mighty impressive ute art. Utes in the Paddock used to be located in Ootha, on the other side of Condobolin. It’s now installed on The Gipps Way right near the big Condobolin sign. You can’t miss it.
Utes in the Paddock
You've seen silo art, but have you ever seen ute art?
Reservoir Hill Lookout
After lunch I made my way to the other side of town. I’d heard about a spot called Reservoir Hill Lookout, which is at the top of Brady Street, up behind the train station and the hospital. It’s not too far of a walk, and you score a great view out over the district.
Gum Bend Lake
My final destination for the day was to take in sunset out at Gum Bend Lake. And boy was that a good decision. The walk from the middle of town out to the lake is 5km… so it’s a 10km round trip, but it’s a straightforward and enjoyable walk on a sealed walking track from the outskirts of town all the way to the lake. Well worthwhile.
Gum Bend Lake is a man-made lake, created in 1988. It’s a great picnic and camping spot, with facilities including picnic tables, BBQs, showers, and toilets.
I arrived at the lake in perfect time, the sun was beginning to dip behind the clouds, and the entire place was drenched in more of that beautiful, warm, golden light that I’d seen so much of already on my trip. Golden hour out alongside Gum Bend Lake was truly special: the bird song, the moon high in the sky, and would you look at this spectacular colours…
After sunset at the lake, I made my way back into town. You know how people warn drivers to take care particular care watching out for roos at dusk? Well, let me tell you, turns out walkers ought to heed that warning too!
With the light almost gone, the chill of the night had me hitting my stride with perhaps a little too much enthusiasm.
I came within a couple of metres of a mighty big roo and boy did we startle each other.
Not sure who was more taken aback… we eyed each other up and quickly went on our merry ways.
Walking under the moonlight, it wasn’t long before the lights of town were in sight.
With an early start and a long journey back to Sydney in the morning, it was time for a feed before turning in for the night.
Condobolin, a weekend well-spent
In February 1887, the correspondent for the Albury Banner and Wodonga Express wrote a report on Condobolin, concluding, "On the whole, Condobolin is a nice little town." And with that, I have to agree.
I visited Condobolin as part of my Regional Weekender series where I travel by train and bus from Sydney to spend weekends in destinations across regional NSW.